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Exciting 21-year-old Ulster centre Stewart Moore continues upward trajectory

The Ballymoney man starts at 12 again as Dan McFarland’s men take on the Ospreys.

STEWART MOORE DOESN’T come across as the kind of character who gets particularly fazed by being asked to step up.

As he got set for his senior Ulster debut off the bench last year against Leinster at the RDS, word came down from the coaching box just to do the simple things well. 

Moore did as much, making his tackles and carrying the ball, but he couldn’t resist showing his skillset in the closing minutes with Leinster having pulled clear. An audacious one-handed offload in behind Cian Kelleher gave us a glimpse of Moore’s exciting ability.

stewart-moore Moore starts at 12 again today against the Ospreys. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

Last weekend, Moore was handed his first senior start for Ulster against Benetton and he produced a gliding linebreak in just the second minute, dummying a pass and smoothly surging upfield before using his footwork to create space to offload to Jacob Stockdale.

Rewind to the summer of 2019 and Moore – who missed out on that year’s U20 Grand Slam due to concussion – was scoring a stunning solo try for Ireland against Australia at the World Rugby U20 Championship.

He’s still a young man at 21 but already Moore is putting together an impressive highlights reel, with his try against Benetton last week a straightforward finish as part of a promising performance that included a few nice kicks, carries, and passes.

Moore would have been disappointed with a few moments in defence but he is obviously still learning at senior level and is well capable of making good tackles and good decisions.

The young playmaker has retained his place in midfield for Ulster’s visit to the Ospreys in the Guinness Pro14 today [KO 5.15pm, eir Sport] and is very hopeful of putting together an injury-free run of games, given his tough experiences in that department so far.

He tore the MCL in his knee in his first year out of school at Ballymena Academy, then had his concussion issue, and then saw his World Rugby U20 Championship ended in that Australia game by a shoulder injury.

“It’s part and parcel, injuries in rugby, but I’ve learned early and I’m sure there’ll be plenty more to go,” says Moore.

stewart-moore-celebrates-scoring-a-try Moore after his superb solo score for the Ireland U20s last year. Source: Pablo Gasparini/INPHO

He hails from Ballymoney in Antrim and returned home during lockdown, feeling the benefit of having a long spell of training and fully ridding himself of any remaining traces of injury niggles. 

Moore first played rugby with Ballymoney RFC and came onto the wider radar as he impressed as a schoolboy with Dalriada School before moving on to Ballymena Academy to continue his development.

He has played All-Ireland League Rugby with Malone RFC in recent years whenever available.

“AIL is great coming out of school and a really good jump for physicality,” says Moore. “Maybe not so much the pace for the younger lads, they maybe outdo the older lads, but certainly with the physicality, you have to be up to that level.

“It’s definitely a complete stepping stone, and it’s something you definitely have to do.”

Moore says he’s not sure yet whether he prefers playing at 12 or 13 but Ulster are using him at inside centre for now with Stuart McCloskey sidelined.

The youngster sees it as a good chance to continue developing his skillset, which looks like potentially being a complete one that could give Moore a constant pass/kick/carry triple-threat.

“Mainly passing and ball carry, especially from 12,” says Moore of what he’s been focusing on. “Ball-carrying’s very important at inside centre. Just working on that, seeing if I can do anything different because I know I wouldn’t be as physical as big Stu, so filling his boots for now is very tough.

ulsters-stewart-moore Moore in action against Leinster last season. Source: Inpho/Billy Stickland

“I don’t practice my kicking as much as I did during lockdown which you wouldn’t think after two cross-fields in the first ten minutes [against Benetton], so just keep that in my locker as well – it’s handy having a left foot.

“So I’ll keep working on those. JP [defence coach Jared Payne] is working on my one-on-one stuff, tackle tech. And then mainly S&C as well, it’s a big part for me this year as well, keeping robust.”

So there’s plenty for Moore to focus on, but already Ulster are getting excited about his potential in midfield. 

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Ospreys:

15. Dan Evans
14. Mat Protheroe
13. Owen Watkin
12. Keiran Williams
11. Luke Morgan
10. Stephen Myler
9. Rhys Webb

1. Nicky Smith
2. Sam Parry
3. Tom Botha
4. Adam Beard
5. Alun Wyn Jones
6. Olly Cracknell
7. Justin Tipuric (captain)
8. Morgan Morris

Replacements: 

16. Dewi Lake
17. Rhodri Jones
18. Ma’afu Fia
19. Bradley Davies
20. Dan Lydiate
21. Harri Morgan
22. Josh Thomas
23. Tiaan Thomas-Wheeler

Ulster:

15. Jacob Stockdale
14. Matt Faddes
13. James Hume
12. Stewart Moore
11. Rob Lyttle
10. Ian Madigan
9. John Cooney

1. Jack McGrath
2. Rob Herring
3. Marty Moore
4. Alan O’Connor
5. Iain Henderson (captain)
6. Matthew Rea
7. Marcus Rea
8. Marcell Coetzee

Replacements:

16. Adam McBurney
17. Eric O’Sullivan
18. Gareth Milasinovich
19. Kieran Treadwell
20. Greg Jones
21. David Shanahan
22. Louis Ludik
23. Sean Reidy

Referee: Mike Adamson [SRU]. 

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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